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Chancellor introduction celebration

"Today, I am humbled and honored to become Carolina’s 12th chancellor. I’m prepared to lead us forward with purpose, humility and vision."

Thank you, Richard.

Today is an incredible day for me and my family. My first day of work at Carolina was also Chancellor Michael Hooker’s first day (July 1, 1995). Since then, I’ve worked alongside Chancellors Hooker, McCoy, Moeser, Thorp and Folt. I’ve learned from each of them along the way.

And today, I am humbled and honored to become Carolina’s 12th chancellor. I’m prepared to lead us forward with purpose, humility and vision… our world-class faculty, dedicated staff, and 30,000 curious (and brilliant) students!

I want to begin by saying thank you. I am here today because of the support of our amazing Carolina community. My colleagues in Exercise and Sport Science where I began my career as a junior faculty member. My team at the Gfeller Center and CSRA, where my passion as a researcher will always remain.

And the outstanding team in the College of Arts and Sciences where I served as Dean.

But my thanks truly goes to the entire Carolina Community – all our students, faculty, staff, and alumni who have engaged with me and supported me during these 10 months as interim chancellor and beyond.

I want to thank the Search Committee, representing all corners of our campus, for your work in this process. To our Board of Trustees: it has been an honor to work with you as interim chancellor, thank you for the confidence you have instilled in me and I look forward to our continued partnership. We will do great things together for our beloved university. And to interim President Bill Roper and the Board of Governors: I am grateful for this opportunity to lead the nation’s first public university. Thank you for your support.

I could not be more thankful to stand alongside Provost Bob Blouin, Chief of Staff Amy Locklear Hertel and our dedicated leadership team who are committed to ensuring we remain the leading global public research university in the United States.

On the day I was announced as Dean four years ago, I talked about how I was driving back to Virginia in February of 1995 after my interview in Chapel Hill, and I called and told my wife Amy that “it just felt right.”

After almost 25 years, that feeling remains. Carolina just feels right. It’s not because of the historic architecture. Or the way the sunlight comes through the oaks on Polk Place. Or even the energy you feel in the Pit mid-day.  Lots of schools have those things. What makes us different is our people. Few schools have what we have: a community of students, faculty, and staff who work across boundaries to collaborate and find solutions. Low stone walls don’t just describe our campus, they describe our culture.

Our community fights for the values we believe in, all while excelling at the highest levels…whether its in the arts and humanities, the sciences, medicine and public health, or law. This community, our students, faculty and staff, is constantly improving and challenging itself to be better.

Who do we aspire to be?

My vision for Carolina is that we will move forward into the future with boldness and confidence that our work is vital for the people of North Carolina, the nation and the world. I hope that we will always be a place that inspires innovation, motivates excellence and serves as a welcoming community for every student, faculty and staff.

I’m proud of the work and progress we’re seeing on campus right now and I’m excited to accelerate it in the months to come. Our new strategic plan, Carolina Next: Innovations for Public Good is a roadmap to where we are headed. This plan will bring transformative change to our campus. Its first initiative is to build our community together. Diversity and Inclusion must be a priority, and we must ensure that every person on our campus feels safe, welcomed and included.

While we’ve been working on this for the past year, it is more important now than ever. Ashton, I really appreciate your comments and I hear you along with the voices of many on our campus. We do have work to do. That’s why today, as part of Building our Community Together, I am announcing a long-term significant investment to create a stronger community here at Carolina. I am committing $5 million to this endeavor. This fund will seed the History, Race & A Way Forward Commission which will include academic initiatives to strengthen our research and teaching, help us to study our past, heal from that past, and move forward together. It will also support our Campus Safety Commission’s important work, and fund diversity trainings and initiatives that build our campus community.

This is just the start. If there’s one defining value of a university – and particularly of a university like Carolina – it’s a constant refining of ourselves as a community.

Carolina is our 30,000 students, and we will always pursue excellence in teaching.

As Dean, I worked alongside colleagues to redesign our general education curriculum…We’re in the midst of a shift in how we teach and how we prepare our students for jobs that don’t yet exist. Education is changing and we must lead the way.

Carolina is one of the last truly public universities. We will build upon our commitment to access and affordability. We are the best value in higher education, and we will raise $1 billion in scholarships in the Campaign for Carolina. We must always remain curious and teach our students the same.

Carolina is one of the largest research institutions in the world. We will build our research enterprise, currently at over $1.1 billion, to cure disease, answer questions, and solve the world’s most difficult problems…while also identifying the problems of tomorrow. Carolina is global. We will transform our university with a global mindset, giving our students the experiences they need to succeed in a global economy. We have the potential and capacity to change the world. Carolina dreams big. We will accomplish all of this because of the support of thousands who invest in our mission. We have officially reached the $3 billion mark in the Campaign for Carolina, a journey that is re-imagining what is possible on our campus. And gift by gift, initiative by initiative, we will strengthen our leading global public research university. Because that is the university our state needs: a public university dedicated to solving the public’s concerns.

We have always been the University of North Carolina, but at our best, we are truly the University for North Carolina.

As the late Chancellor Michael Hooker said: “there is only one reason to have a public university, and that is to serve the people of the state. That should be the touchstone of everything we do.”

We re-launched the Tar Heel Bus Tour this fall, reconnecting us with the importance of serving our state. Our faculty learned about our state, the communities we visited learned about Carolina and I learned a lot about both. The impact of our faculty, staff and students on North Carolina is undeniable. Our state has made us better, and we will aim to make our state better too.

So here’s what I promise today.

  • As chancellor, I will shine an honest and stark light on our campus. And I will act on the challenges we face…On the other side of every challenge is an opportunity.
  • I will make mistakes, and I’ll listen and work to change when I do. Leadership must be accessible, transparent, and clear. That’s how a public university is supposed to work.
  • I will work hard to help create the stable, safe community we need to focus on the groundbreaking research and learning that’s happening across campus.
  • I will be a leader who goes into communities across our state and listens. I will lead our university in service, ensuring that everything we do is FOR our state.

Servant leadership. It’s not a phrase we hear often anymore. But it’s what I want to embody as Chancellor. I truly believe that Carolina’s greatest strength is its people and the best form of leadership at Carolina is one that makes decisions with, not for, this community. As a servant leader, I am committed to championing our community, fighting for our values and always reminding people that we have a world-class university here in Chapel Hill.

Carolina is my home. I love this university and the opportunity to lead it is a profound honor. There is no institution in the world that is more capable of changing our future than our nation’s first public university.

Universities offer hope. They are the closest thing to a level playing field that society has created. Universities drive our economy, spur innovation and create jobs that make our communities and families stronger. Our great university must continue to identify and prepare for whatever comes after, what comes next. We must keep our eyes fixed on the horizon. This is what we have always done at Carolina, and it is what we will continue to do.

When I think about the years ahead, I know it will not always be easy. But what motivates me is the impact we can have as we strive to make the next generation’s lives better than our own. What motivates me is our community and the people who have dedicated their lives to serving the greater good.

My family is here – my children Jacob, Nathan, Adam and Tessa, and my amazing wife Amy and her parents. I know my parents are watching the livestream back in Latrobe. I’m only standing up here today because of their love and support. We are taking this on as a family. Easy is boring.

Thank you. For the first time as your chancellor, Go Heels.